It’s that time. New Year’s. Every last week of December I take time, as you might, to reflect on the year behind me and the year ahead. I try to close out one year with gratitude and lessons learned as I approach the next with great hopes and big dreams. I usually try and refrain from vanity and the things I can easily long for that I no longer want to get caught up in- because that’s what they do- those things trap me. Instead my new years goals stretch their hands out into a loftiness I may never grasp and yet I write their words.
In my journal I wrote just 4 words, each representing big goals I would like to see accomplished in the year to come. Maybe you do this too. Maybe you call them goals or resolutions, dreams or prayers. This year I called them “mountains”. In my journal I literally wrote the word, “mountains” and drew a line under that word and then wrote the four mountains I would personally like to summit.
My bet is that you have mountains you’d like to summit too. You have big hairy audacious goals you would like to crest. And I bet, you too, can find yourself writing them down as you look ahead to 2018 and then while writing them, maybe like me, you hear a voice saying “Yeah right. Good luck making that happen.” Or maybe you hear a cheeky “In your dreeeeeams. ” Maybe you write your goals and echoed in return is “You have said you would do that for years, why would this year be any different?”
We are a funny people. We are the grandest dreamers and the greatest discouragers, at the very same time. Here I was journaling about the dreams I have for myself and yet in that very same moment, I was telling myself I would not accomplish those dreams. I heard these statements as if a bully dream killer lives in my head calling me names saying “Don’t even bother. You have had that as a goal before. You failed to accomplish it. You might as well set less lofty goals.”
Does that bully dream killer reside in your head too?
By the time we are done writing out our goals and hopes for the new year, we are already convincing ourselves we should give up and be satisfied with something more attainable, like going to the grocery store every week or doing laundry and actually folding it. Clearly this way of thinking won’t help us summit any mountains. And it won’t help us like folding the laundry either.
Our disbelief in our own capability to accomplish big things keeps us from doing such, but I also wonder what else is at play with our yearly dreams and goals failing to become realities? Why is it that every stinkin’ year has us starting out our January with big summit dreams and by March we have already given up and are settling into mediocrity and our own self fulfilling prophecies?
I love how Zechariah 10 encourages God’s people. The Israelites had a huge project before them- to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. It seemed like an impossible goal. Their critics prodded them with just how far they had to go. And it is right there that God shows up to exhilarate them in what some commentators call the “Eight Visions of Encouragement.”
God assures the people and this guy, Z, that he will lead this goal to completion. (His real name was Zerubbabel, but who even knows how to pronounce that? Let’s face it, if he was our friend, we would give him a nickname and it would be Z.) Imagine being this Z dude, who had a big mountain he was hoping to summit. He had already started the hike. Most likely, he was probably like us- he had big dreams and ideas but he also felt full of discouragement, self mockery and a long list of the reasons he would fail.
And it is here that God speaks through a prophet to encourage him:
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!” Then the word of the Lord came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. “Who dares despise the day of small things…” Zechariah 10: 6-10
I love that God spoke into Z’s big lofty goal and call by reminding him of the truth. It was like God showed up as Z looked at this giant mountain he had to climb and said “It won’t be by your power or your might Z, but by My Spirit.” As I read this scripture and stared at my 2018 goals, I was actually relieved. It won’t be by my might or by my power nor by my weaknesses or by my easily discouraged spirit that I will accomplish or not accomplish what I feel called to. Me summiting impossible to climb mountains will be by God’s Spirit partaking in the hike. And the same is true for you.
God knows us so well. God knew that Z needed an inspirational speech. God throws some trash talk at this lofty goal, “What are you mighty mountain?….you will become level ground.” I stared at my 4 mountainous goals and said the same thing with a sass and a swagger like I was getting in the ring with a fighter who thought he had me beat… I looked at those 4 goals and said, “What are you? You aren’t mountains. You aren’t too lofty. You aren’t unattainable. You aren’t big dreams that will never come true. You will be level ground. I will summit you and stand at your top.”
Not only did I say it when I was reading this passage and journaling, but I have been pretty saucy ever since talking to these big dreams. God invites us by faith to look square in the eyes at our lofty goals, dreams, resolutions, and callings and declare they will no longer be mountains, but attainable ground that we will zenith. I dare you to write your mountains down like I was led to and claim this verse out of Zechariah over them. We sure as heck don’t stand a chance to make it past sea level if we don’t first claim these mountains WILL see our footsteps.
God showed up to Z who had big goals and assured him that God will also participate. God gave Z a pep rally and words to claim when he stands in front of mountains that look too hard to elevate. But even more, God left Z with what I believe might be what sees us, in one year from now, standing on top of the peaks we hope to.
The Lord said “Who dares despise the day of small things?”
God is exhorting Z and the voices of doubt around him, that it will be the small things that complete this big goal. It will be one brick after another brick. It will be saying yes to the alarm waking you up Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and so on. It will be showing up day after day after day. It will be the small things, January 1st, January 2nd, January 3rd… God assures Z that this big accomplishment that everyone doubts can be done, it will be completed….but not by the big, but instead by the small.
This daily small that the Lord is talking about is quite simply, faithfulness, day after day after day. Each one of us can summit any mountain God calls us to, but it starts with faithfulness to the small things every day. Every mountain ever apexed started with the first step. And the next and the next and the next. That thing you and I dream to do, it will come to fruition with work, with showing up, with presence, with punching the clock, with practice, with the brick, the mortar and the sweat.
But we don’t want to have to work for it. We don’t want to have to do the small, we just want the big. We want our name in lights without the struggle getting there. We want to have strength without working out. We want impactful ministry without sacrifice. We want meaningful lives without pain and entering it. We want to be rockstars without picking up the guitar. We want to be teachers without studying. We want to give sermons without first living them. We want friends without first being a friend. We want to be leaders without first being followers. We want to be at the top having never been at entry level.
We are a people only impressed with the big and rarely impressed with the little. And yet our big God reassures us, it will be the small things that He will, by His Spirit, turn into beautiful views on top of mountains, we never thought possible. Little by little, by little, by little, our God makes the big.
It makes sense that God would challenge us to not think our big dreams and big goals will be made possible by big action, big moves, big breaks, big money, big this and big that. He is the God who told stories and in those stories, Jesus often said things like this: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much… (Luke 16:10) This is a God who promises to bless those of us who are faithful with the little. And when we are faithful with the little we have, God will give us more. So, maybe our dreams are born the day we commit to, not the big, but the small. Maybe God will reward our daily faithfulness and its sum will not just add up, but God will multiply it into something beyond what we can imagine.
As I read this word of the Lord, I sensed Him strengthening my plan and my spirit. My goals and dreams will not be accomplished by thinking I can start at the top. I will not get there by assuming I will float up to higher elevations, somehow, by opportunity. I will only complete what I have started by the small things. All of our dreams require a daily faithfulness that we can easily give up on because.. it feels too small.
So I wrote down my mountains and I told them what’s up. They aren’t mountains. They will be level ground. And I told that voice that threatens to discourage and trip me up, to sit back and watch what God’s Spirit can do. And then I committed myself to faithfulness in the small. Instead of focusing on the big mountains I hope to summit, my reflection moved from the big rather to the small. My goals and resolutions changed from lofty to little. I moved my pen and wrote the words “small beginnings.” And it was there that I made a list of the things I need to be faithful to.
In one year from today I will be sitting somewhere, most likely with a new journal, looking for a new start. I will be looking back on 2018 and ahead to 2019. And most likely if I have crested any challenging mountain ranges and stood on their peaks victoriously, it will be because I was faithful in the daily, small things.
Me getting to the top of that mountain will be me lacing up those hiking boots every single day even if its rainy and even if I don’t feel like it. It will be me putting one foot in front of the other day after day. It will be me packing the right gear every day I head out. It will be me putting the work in to plan around the conditions. It will be me being willing to set aside all the other things I could do and want to do, to do the thing I feel called to. It will be me being willing to sacrifice what I can see, for what I cannot yet see. It will be me setting aside the already level ground to march up and up and up.
This is true for you too. I know you have big dreams. I know there are things you think of doing every single year. I know you blow out your birthday candles and wish for it. I know you talk about doing it with the people you can trust. It won’t just come, friend. You’re gonna have to lace up your daily faithfulness, get sassy with the discouragement and tell it who’s boss and then invite God to bless it. That’s what He does. He participates in our modest acts of faithfulness by taking what is small and He makes it very, very big.
Will this be your year of big things or small? Your small leads to your big. God promises it to be so.
Bless you this New year. May you summit mountains you never thought possible and may I look over from the neighboring peak and yell with you out into the Universe “What are you mighty mountains, but level ground!”